Image google ? How to do a reverse image search Full detail 2019


How to do a reverse image search

There are two easy options for doing a reverse image search:

  • Tineye
  • Google Reverse Image Search

I guess most will be familiar with the former – but maybe not the latter?  The post summarises:

  • what is a reverse image search
  • why do a reverse image search
  • how Tin Eye works
  • how Google Reverse Image Search works
  • a comparison of the results
  • image privacy issues

It also highlights the results I got when doing a test search – using the “popular choice” image from an exhibition which had been highlighted on this blog.

What is a reverse image search?

A reverse image search uses no words.  To do a reverse image search you first introduce an image to a specialised search engine and then it looks for more images like the one you showed to it. 

It’s usual to be able to either identify the baseline image via a file or a URL.

Why do a reverse image search?

The main reasons for using a reverse image search are:

  • to find out where an image came from.  Given that the search is very likely to return a number of other sources for the image it may be take a while to identify the original source.
  • to find higher resolution images of an image – search results will tell you 
  • to locate internet sites where an image appears – the results provide a URL address
  • to track down places where your images appear on the Internet in order to enforce your rights under copyright law.  This may highlight places where:
    • your copyright is being infringed
    • copies of your images are being sold
    • your images have been altered and represented to be those of another person
  • to identify the owner of an image so you can ask to use it (which prompts the question of whether somebody would be able to get in touch with you to do this?)
  • to identify who has already used a publicly available image so as to avoid its use if used too much already.  This is particularly relevant to those using images they do not own on blogs and websites.

This article on Scientific American indicates that the improvements in reverse image search will lead to an increase in reports of copyright infringement which in turn will lead to a change in the copyright laws.  

The extent to which emerging laws will continue to protect artist’s livelihoods remains to be seen.


I guess a number of people are familiar with TinEye which is probably the best known reverse image search engine. 

You upload an image or plug in a URL and it will tell you all the other places on the Internet that the image can also be seen.  It does not search for words, metadata or watermarks.  The way it works is a bit like comparing fingerprints.  It’s looking for similar characteristics – when it finds enough of them it identifies a match.

You can submit an image to TinEye to find out where it came from, how it is being used, if modified versions of the image exist, or to find higher resolution versions.

Which is very useful if it happens to be one of your images and shouldn’t be appearing anywhere else without your permission!

What’s absolutely amazing is the number of images it compares it too

Searched over 2.0345 billion images in 2.450 seconds


Tineye is very accurate.  On the image I tested (provided to me by a gallery) TineEye found both the blogposts I used it on straight away.  It also found a number of other sites but only nine in total.  All but two were legitimate sites for an image which had been provided to me by a gallery.  Some were however using it as a larger size than the gallery allows – which was interesting!

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However its accuracy may also understate the number of places the image can be found – see below.

If you want to know more:

  • check out this tutorial 
  • watch the introductory video
  • check out the Tineye plugins for Firefox, Chrome and Safari – so you can use it when appropriate straight from your browser.
  • check out the Tineye FAQs (very informative and helpful – much better than Google’s equivalent)

Google Reverse Search Engine

This was introduced – very quietly – this summer.  I made a note of it at the time – but I’ve not heard a lot about it since then – and there’s not a lot on the Internet about it – hence this post!


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